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Halloween seemed like the perfect time to run my email interview with writer Tim Hall regarding The Last Mortician, his first-time collaboration with his longtime friend, Dean Haspiel. The story, which explores death and love plus a great deal in between, launched earlier this month at Tor.com. Hall and Haspiel are storytellers that clearly relish challenging each other through their work. I appreciate Hall’s eagerness to discuss his craft, as well as Haspiel’s willingness to share some of the pencils for two panels. I really hope the creators’ Frankenstein reboot (mentioned in our interview) breaks out of the lab soon to terrorize the masses.
Tim O’Shea: As a novelist and screenwriter who also works periodically in comics (and who is seemingly always busy with multiple creative efforts), what attracted you to working with Dean on The Last Mortician?
Tim Hall: Dean and I have known each other for almost 15 years, and have supported each other’s work unconditionally and seen each other through some serious personal ups and downs. I have always had the greatest respect for Dean’s work and he is without question the best reader and biggest supporter of my writing. So why hadn’t we worked together before? First, we’re idiots, but also because we were each in our own worlds. Dean approached me seriously about working together nearly two years ago now, and we’ve since worked on a lot of stories and pitches; this is just the first that’s been published.
I know what you’re thinking, and yes–it really is just like “When Harry Met Sally.”
I almost renamed the feature Talking Text-Comics with Tim for this week’s interview with Tim Hall, but I thought better of it. Hall’s project, Uplift the Postivicals, is ambitious, oddly engaging and unlike anything else that ACT-I-VATE has featured over the years. Hall’s ACT-I-VATE bio covers everything you need to know before jumping into the actual interview: “Multimedia writer and journalist Tim Hall has been a champion of indie and DIY comics since 1995, when he first began publishing such future stars as Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld, Nick Bertozzi, and Sam Henderson (and many others) as part of the New York Hangover newspaper. His stories have since been put into comics form by Rami Efal, Josh Simmons, Michel Fiffe, and as part of Nick Bertozzi’s award-winning Rubber Necker series. He is excited to take his writing to a new level at ACT-I-VATE with ‘Uplift The Positivicals,’ a freeform column of stories rendered as text images. His most recent novel, FULL OF IT: The Birth, Death, and Life of an Underground Newspaper was called a ‘Best of 2008′ by literary journal decomP and features wicked cool cover art by ACT-I-VATE co-founder Dean Haspiel. Tim lives in a small town in northern Illinois with his wife and son.” My thanks to Hall for the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Uplift the Positivicals is described as “Text-based comics, fontasies, soul sutras and shredded prose, rendered in bold, binary alphabetics.” I’m not sure where to start with that engaging mouthful, so I’ll be
selective in my curiosity–what do you mean when you use the term “fontasies”?
Tim Hall: To be honest, I wrote that description before I had written a single column, so I really screwed myself, didn’t I? First I had to map out my narrative territory and get people used to my style and hopefully into the characters. I’m now in the process of incorporating concrete poetry, typographic elements, visual writing and the like into UTP. The challenge for me is to tell a story using words in different ways, without relying on design per se. That’s a long-winded way of saying that if I ever figure out what a fontasy is I’ll be sure to let you know!
O’Shea: For this story, how did you go about selecting this font in particular?
Hall: I was looking for something bold and condensed that wasn’t too overbearing. My primary goal was to make UTP readable on iPhones, while still packing enough info on each panel for desktop readers. I’m leaning more toward the portable devices, and actually just made the template slightly more widescreen.